“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.'”
The story goes that in 1743, when Handel’s Messiah was first performed in London, King George II stood during the Hallelujah Chorus in deference to the King of kings. Scholars still debate the why and even the if of this singular event. Had the king been suddenly awakened by the loud music? Was he stretching his legs at the two-hour mark? Was it a reaction to his painful gout? I don’t suppose we’ll ever know the answer.
On a personal level, there is one thing I can tell you in connection with the Hallelujah chorus that certainly did happen. I was there. I saw it with my own eyes and I daresay it was as moving—if not moreso—than seeing a monarch standing in his finery.
To tell you that story, I need to tell you about Raymond Bair, one of the kindest, gentlest people I’ve ever known.
I first met Raymond in the inner city of Brooklyn when I was twenty years old. He was in his early 40s and lived in the apartment downstairs from my girlfriend. He had a beautiful smile and, invariably, a kind word for everyone. I think many people, his wife included, saw him as something of a simpleton. He was open (as in open-hearted), a bit old-fashioned, a simple man and not well-educated. He worked as a janitor at Macy’s Department Store on 34th Street in Manhattan. He had been orphaned as a child and was raised by a farming family in rural Pennsylvania. Perhaps that is where he learned his gentle, polite ways.
Nine years later, when I became a follower of Christ, Raymond was one of the first people with whom I shared my faith. He listened to me respectfully, but I could tell he was guarded, too. I think he may have felt he wasn’t good enough to become a Christian, or that he would have to give up too much to follow Christ. But I wouldn’t let him go. One day I happened to be near Macy’s and on an impulse walked inside and found Raymond polishing the marble floors. I talked to him again about the Lord, and when I invited him to receive Jesus into his heart, we prayed together then and there. When we said “Amen,” Raymond looked at me with a warmth I’ll never forget and gave me that beautiful smile. We embraced—brothers in Christ.
That Christmas (it was 1982), I managed to get half-price tickets to a performance of Messiah at Carnegie Hall. Raymond joined me in the far-off balcony section along with several friends from church. Knowing a bit of history, I got to my feet as the Hallelujah Chorus began. Raymond followed my example, but took it further, spontaneously raising his arms over his head and shouting for all the world to hear: “Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” And then, Raymond Bair, a janitor at Macy’s Department Store, wept openly, his sobs—so it seemed to me—rising above the swelling volume of the choir below.
My dear friend, Raymond, left this earth some twenty years ago. I think of him often, especially this time of year, and pray that I might be as “simple” and pure of heart as he was. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”
I want to believe King George II stood to honor the King of kings.
I know Raymond Bair stood to honor the One they call the Christ.
How about you? Will you stand this Christmas in honor of Messiah? Watch the YouTube video below for some Christmas inspiration!
We have been entering Let Me Have My Son into film festivals and are pleased to announce that we have so far been named a finalist at the Las Vegas International Film Festival and the Culver City Film Festival. Additionally, we have been nominated in the Best Actor and Best Feature Film categories at the ICVM Crown Awards (winners will be announced at NRB in May 2023).
If you live in southern California, try to make the screening of Let Me Have My Son on December 6. Showtime is 11:45 AM at the Cinemark 18 and XD located at 6081 Center Drive in Los Angeles, CA 90045. Blessings!